Counting the cost: KZN needs R100m and Gauteng R53m to fix schools looted, vandalised during recent unrest

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Radha Roopsingh Primary School in Etete near KwaDukuza, on the north coast, was partially destroyed in a fire during the June unrest. Photo: File/The Witness
Radha Roopsingh Primary School in Etete near KwaDukuza, on the north coast, was partially destroyed in a fire during the June unrest. Photo: File/The Witness

POLITICS


It will cost the KwaZulu-Natal department of education more than R100 million to fix schools vandalised and looted during the unrest in the province last month.

Barney Mthembu, the acting head of department, told the portfolio committee on basic education in Parliament on Tuesday that 144 schools had been looted and vandalised in the province.

Last month City Press reported that Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said about 139 schools were vandalised and looted.

READ: KZN education MEC discourages communities from buying goods stolen from schools during unrest

However, Mthembu said initially the department had information that 137 schools and district offices were vandalised, but after a physical verification process it was established that actually 144 schools were damaged. Eight education circuit offices and three education centres were also damaged, he added.

“In all the affected establishments the cost of damage is estimated to be R100.362 million.”

“A cost damage report showed that in some of the schools the damage could be repaired in a short time and in some it could be a matter of a year,” said Mthembu.

The extent of the damage includes:

  • Damage of roofs;
  • Damaged toilets;
  • Damage of and stolen doors;
  • Theft of copper and electricity pipes;
  • Theft of building material and computers;
  • Damage of school fences and stolen and broken windows;
  • Largely burnt schools; and
  • Theft of school nutrition equipment and foodstuffs.

Mthembu said of the 144 schools, three had a serious shortage of classrooms after buildings were burnt down. At a primary school in the Pinetown district, for example, three classrooms were burnt to ashes while eight others were torched at school in the Umgungundlovu district and seven were destroyed at a school in Ilembe district. The three schools were provided with 18 mobile classrooms before schools reopened this week.

READ: Schools vandalised and looted in KwaZulu-Natal

Mthembu said 12 education districts were affected by the looting and vandalism with Umgungundlovu, Ilembe, Pinetown districts the worst affected.

Budget cuts affect funding for damaged schools

Initially Umgungundlovu, about R39 million would be needed while Ilembe’s estimated cost was R35 million. At least R15 million would be needed for the Pinetown district.

Mthembu said the province was engaging with the national department of education to secure funding for the rehabilitation of the damaged schools.

Mshengu told the committee that budget cuts would make it difficult to fix the schools. He said this financial year the department had R6.3 billion cut from its budget.

“The infrastructure damage that has been suffered basically adds on the already existing backlog of schools that have been damaged in the past by criminal elements, but also those schools that have been damaged by weather conditions which we have not been able to repair as the department because of shortage of funds,” he said.

54 schools in Guateng damaged at estimated R53 million

Meanwhile in Gauteng, Albert Chanee the deputy director-general for strategic planning management in the department of education, said 20 schools had been vandalised since schools closed in June, 14 of them during the unrest in the province.

Chanee said 70% of the damage at the schools was the theft of electrical wiring. “Rehabilitation and replacement cost for the 14 schools is estimated at R38 million,” he said.

At least R53 million would be needed to fix the schools damaged this year, Chanee said.

For example, at Amos Maphanga Secondary School in Benoni, R4.5 million would be required to replace the damaged and stolen electric wiring. While at Refalletse Primary School in Orange Farm the roof of the administration block and classrooms were damaged and it would cost R4.9 million to fix them.

He said 51 of the 54 schools had been affected more than once.

“In all the burglaries, pupils and teaching equipment has been stolen together with information and communication technology (ICT) items.”

The most common target areas in schools are administration blocks for ICT equipment and nutrition centres for food items.
Chanee

He added that the most common items that were stolen from schools and sold as scrap included:

  • Electrical cabling;
  • Copper pipes;
  • Aluminum frames;
  • Metal water fixtures; and
  • Steel palisade fencing.

He said sanitary fittings in toilets, plumbing and electrical components were vandalised.

Most of the affected districts were the Tshwane west and north, the Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Sedibeng west regions.

Overall, Chanee said, since the start of the lockdown in March last year until last month, 401 schools in the province had been affected by arson, vandalism and break-ins.

READ: KZN education MEC discourages communities from buying goods stolen from schools during unrest

Members of the portfolio committee slammed the vandalism and looting of schools as “hooliganism”, “primitive” and “barbarism”.

Committee member, Baxolile Nodada, said the damaging of schools was inexcusable “no matter what people might be going through”. He said schools were the community’s pride and people must protect them.

“There is no justification for destroying what is already there because it costs too much to rebuild. Even those schools that are already there it has been a challenge to get them there to begin with,” he said.

Committee chairperson Bongiwe Mbiqo-Gigaba said communities should be reminded that destroying schools was not a form of a protest. She said because schools were in communities, they were targeted first during the unrest and that was wrong.


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